Thursday, August 9, 2012

Blade Song, by J. C. Daniels - Review

Author:J.C. Daniels
Publisher Name:Shiloh Walker, Inc
Imprint:INscribe Digital
Reviewing:eARC from NetGalley

There's a New Series In Town
I have to admit, I'm kind of a series junky.  I blame Nancy Drew and the Stratemeyer Syndicate.  There's a certain comfort, or security, in knowing that I can visit my favorite characters again in another book, even if this one is done.  I'm not much of a re-reader, usually, so I think series loyalty is sort of my version of re-reading.

Even so, I confess that sometimes I feel a little fatigued by  the number of "my" series that are up into the 6th, 12th, or 20th book.  With series-arcs in play, that's a lot of details to keep track of.

So of course, the cure is... to start a new series!  OK, well, yeah, on the one hand, that doesn't really solve the detail-tracking problem.  But on the other, it's really fun to dive into a fresh new series AND have it turn out to be as good as this one.

Alter Egos
It's no secret that J. C. Daniels is a pseudonym for Shiloh Walker, author of quite a number of different series.  Writing everything from fairy-tale-based paranormal fantasy to erotica to "straight" (ie, no magic) romantic suspense, Ms. Walker is one of the hardest-working authors around.  I was lucky enough to spend some time with her at RT in April and enjoyed her so much -- sharp, intelligent, funny, and pulls no punches with her opinions and commentary.

What I knew about her writing before I requested this ARC: 1) it's entirely brilliant, and 2) some of her stories appeal to me a lot, and some of them do not.  The ones that do not are simply a matter of what kind of stories I like and not about her ability to execute.  Her romantic suspense stories sometimes edge into violence of the sort and extent that I don't enjoy reading about.

My brain is a quirky place though.  When you move all that violence into a paranormal universe, it bothers me a lot less.  Or in a different way.  It's like I'm suspending my disbelief from a different hook or something.  So I was very interested to learn that Ms. Walker was working on an urban fantasy heroine, because here is a world where I can throw away my baggage and enjoy the ride.

Brave New World
And what a ride this was.  This new universe that Daniels brings us is the "kitchen sink" sort of world, where vampires, witches, werecreatures, and anything your imagination could conjure up, have been outed in the world.  A little reminiscent of Nancy Holzner's world, one of the key factors is the uncertain state of citizenship for paranormal.... people. Creatures? You see the dilemma.  In this book, it was something of a teaser, playing a part in the plot and adding to the tension, but I could see how that thread might become a major driver in the series arc or arcs.

I have to say, I love, love, love the mythology of the aneira:
My sword arm is mighty.
I will not falter.
I will not fail.
My aim is true.
My heart is strong.
Descended from the legendary Amazons (the ones from the Hercules myth, not the ones from South America), Kit is only a half-breed, and her gifts are subtle, seemingly weak. From a childhood of brutal training and emotional abuse, Kit has made the most of her human strengths too-- muscular toughness, persistence, self-reliance, unshakeable loyalty to those who are lucky enough to win it, and a sort of preternatural cleverness for riddles (I think it must be very hard to write this as a character's true skill and not authorial intrusion- we have to believe she really figures this stuff out). She also has a very handy trick with weapons. I think that a fun part of the series will be to watch Kit come into her own, and really understand what she is capable of. An interesting twist is that the aneira themselves are not widely known about, and Kit can "pass" for Muggle... er, non-paranormal. And yes, I think the echoes of racism and segregation and civil rights are interesting and intentional.

Blade Song is urban fantasy, and there was a very clear triangle set up in the beginning with two powerful men. I'd like to say something about patterns and UF versus PNR but I think it's a little spoilery, so I'll just say, Daniels surprised and thrilled me with the bold strokes she takes with her characters and the world's power structure.  It's action packed, so the UF purists should enjoy it, but there's a lot of romance and a lot of heat in this book too.

One problem that Kit has is that she doesn't trust easily, and rarely accepts or asks for help.  So this little snip is particularly significant, and moving too:
He pulled me against him and I went, sinking against his chest. I could lean on him, I realized. I really could. And it wasn't so bad to do it.
This is an amazing moment for an independently-inclined woman who's falling in love, and you don't have to have magical powers to recognize it, to feel it resonate.

I haven't said much about what this book is about - you can find the blurb here.  I think Kit is not far off of a modern-day, grown up Nancy Drew though - she's a gun for hire, solving mysteries and finding lost things - served up with grown-up emotional entanglements, against a gritty paranormal backdrop in place of the idyllic River Heights.

To sum up, I loved this series starter - it's got fresh mythology, strong women, powerful men, and a complex JengaTM -style socio-political structure that's bound to have plenty of plot twists just waiting to be discovered. I think fans of Kim Harrison, Ilona Andrews, and Keri Arthur will love this new series as much as I did.

Around the Blogosphere
Paperback Dolls
That Bookish Girl
Happily Ever After
That's What I'm Talking About
The Book Tart (side note, I sort of met/noticed this blogger at RT and she just impressed the heck out of me with her brilliant presence, and sharp commentary. I'm a fan, and now I've finally found her blog, YAY!)

1 comment:

Kira Brady said...

This looks really good! I'll have to add it to the after-I-turn-in-book-3 reading list. Thanks for the rec!


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